The Set Time
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Psalm 102:13).
The title given by our translators to this 102nd Psalm is, “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” The cause of the affliction and trouble of which the psalmist complains is the low estate of God’s church and kingdom. The children of light were in a time of great darkness. The children of the free woman were in terrible bondage. Because of their sin and unbelief, the Lord had hidden his face from the people of his favor, causing them to “eat ashes like bread” and mingle their drink with weeping (v. 9). Israel was reproached by her enemies (v. 8). Yet, the psalmist watched, “as a sparrow alone upon the house top,” in expectant faith for mercy, anticipating a time of refreshing and revival (v. 7). He cried, “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.”
That is precisely the expectation of my heart, as I anticipate the Lord’s blessing upon our conference. Perhaps “the set time” has come for our God to again favor Zion. Oh, may God be pleased to pour out his Spirit upon us and send us “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
A Confident Expectation
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion.” — This is an assured, confident expectation. The psalmist “speaketh with as much confidence,” John Trapp wrote, “as if he had been in God’s bosom.” He firmly believed and boldly prophesied that the Lord’s apparent inaction would cease, that he would “arise and have mercy upon Zion” again. God will surely stir himself and work effectually for and in his chosen. Zion, the church of God’s elect, he has chosen for himself. She is highly favored, gloriously inhabited, and wondrously preserved. The memory of her past mercies assures us of future mercy. Though he may have hidden his face from us for a season, to chasten us in love and sweetly force us to seek his face, our God has sworn, “With great mercies will I gather thee…With everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer…My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Isa. 54:7-10). Our God will not leave us in such a low condition. He may, for a while hide himself from us, to make us see our nakedness and poverty; but he will arise in his great love to our defense and pour out his mercy upon us!
The Set Time
“For the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.” By his own decree, our heavenly Father has appointed a season for the blessing of his church. When “the set time, is come” she shall be blessed. Just as there was an appointed time for the Jews in Babylon, so there is an appointed time for our adversity. But, when the time was fulfilled, no bolts and bars could hold the ransomed of the Lord in
Babylonian bondage. When the time came for the walls of Zion to be built, Israel was delivered from her bondage. So it shall be again. When the Lord God rises to deliver, none can hinder him.
And we have every reason to expect him to arise, if we can honestly say, “For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof” (v. 14). If we pity God’s church, if we earnestly seek her good, how much more God must pity us and seek our good! If the dust of Zion’s spiritual ruins moves us to compassion, how much more must it move our God! He has let the powers of darkness have their hour, only that “the set time” of his hour may be sought by us, and that it may be more glorious when it comes.
Do not fail to see the joyful blessedness in these two words, “is come.” — “Yea, the set time, is come!” Can those words be understood by us as a word of promise? Perhaps they can. This much I know, that God’s set time to favor Zion “is come,” when Zion is humbled before him, acknowledging her great need of Christ, his cleansing, his righteousness, his grace, his power and his presence. God’s set time to favor Zion “is come,” when he inspires his people with faith and expectation, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:21). God’s set time to favor Zion “is come,” when our hearts are enflamed by his Spirit with love for Christ, our God and Savior, for his glory and for his people. God’s set time to favor Zion “is come,” when he strips from us all pretense and hypocrisy, making us honest and sincere before him.
Stephen Charnock wrote, “Without faith we are not fit to desire mercy, without humility we are not fit to receive it, without affection we are not fit to value it, without sincerity we are not fit to improve it.”
Those times of extremity and adversity, by which we are overwhelmed, are designed and brought to pass by our God to strip us that he may clothe us, to wound us that he may heal us, to make us need him that we might be compelled to seek him earnestly. — “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Dan. 9:17). — “Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (Psa. 80:19).
“Revive Thy work, O Lord, Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead, and make Thy people hear.
Revive Thy work, O Lord, disturb this sleep of death;
Quicken the smold’ring embers now by Thine almighty breath.
Revive Thy work, O Lord, create soul-thirst for Thee;
And hungering for the Bread of Life O may our spirits be.
Revive Thy work, O Lord, exalt Thy precious Name;
And, by the Holy Ghost, our love for Thee and Thine inflame.
Revive Thy work, O Lord, and give refreshing showers;
The glory shall be all Thine own, the blessing, Lord, be ours.”